Security Concerns After Tenleytown Shooting Disrupt GDS Dismissal

Unable to leave the building, students gather in the Forum after seventh period on Friday. Photo by Olivia Brown.

GDS students were directed to shelter in place at 3:07 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18 after reports of a shooting near Jackson-Reed High School. The school alerted families of the situation via email and announced at 5:40 p.m. that the threat was cleared and activities were allowed to resume.

Before the announcement came over the intercom in the final minutes of seventh period, word that Jackson-Reed, formerly Woodrow Wilson, was locked down reached GDS students through social media. Students could hear helicopters circling Tenleytown as they texted through grade-wide group chats, wondering if GDS would be placed on a lockdown or shelter-in-place order.

After 40 minutes of sheltering in place—staying in the high school building, but moving freely within it— students were allowed to leave through the parking garage if an adult had come to pick them up. Lower and middle school dismissal took place in the LMS garage rather than outside, and those at the LMS who didn’t have adults there to pick them up could not leave campus and remained sheltered in place.

Several students interviewed by the Bit said that the school’s response was an overreaction and disorganized. Some students were told by teachers to stay in their seventh period classes until further updates by their teachers when the initial announcement was made, while others immediately proceeded to the Forum.

“We’ve been getting a lot of mixed messages,” freshman EJ Mazo said during the shelter-in-place.

Students were released in multiple waves, beginning with bus riders. At 3:35, high school students taking buses were told to report to the Internet Cafe. They were then escorted by faculty from the high school to the LMS, where they joined lower and middle school students in the cafeteria. School buses began a staggered departure from the LMS at about 3:50.

The Metropolitan Police Department tweeted an update at 3:53 from Second District Commander Duncan Bedlion. According to Bedlion, a police officer at Jackson-Reed was flagged down by a person who heard gunfire at 2:45, and shortly after emergency call centers started receiving reports from other witnesses. Bedlion said a suspect fled in a black Infiniti sedan with Virginia plates.

Previously, MPD tweeted that two shooters exchanged gunfire from their vehicles. No injuries were reported, but property damage was. Jackie Bensen, a reporter for NBC Washington, tweeted a photo of a Jeep parked outside Jackson-Reed with multiple bullet holes in it.

In a series of update emails, GDS encouraged students to be in communication with their families regarding dismissal, and at 4:15, faculty and staff were dismissed over the intercom by Assistant Principal for School Life Quinn Killy.

At 4:20, the lockdown at Jackson-Reed was lifted, according to NBC Washington.

All GDS high school students who had not left with an adult were called down to the Forum at approximately 4:30. Killy announced that the school was still under a shelter-in-place order, but that students whose parents or guardians had arrived and those who were driving or carpooling could leave.

As students were being dismissed, administrators announced over the intercom at 4:50 that all students who were not performing in the school play, The Odyssey, or participating in the Consent Summit were to report to the basement. Minutes later, the students who were participating in those activities were also brought down to L1. Students spoke of a rumored second security threat, but received no information about why they were being directed downstairs. 

Students file into the turf room on L1. Photo by Olivia Brown.

In an interview on L1 at about 5, GDS freshman Julian Lucas complained that the school was “not handling it great. Kids at Jackson-Reed have gone home, and we are still here.” 

At 5:40, an all-school email informed families that the shelter in place had ended and that all activities, including the fall play and the Consent Summit, would be going on as planned.

Junior Victoria Agerskov-Townsend, a Consent Summit organizer, said that the shelter-in-place slowed down the set-up process and caused stress about starting the summit, an educational event about sexual assault and consent that GDS hosts and that includes students from other schools, on time. She echoed other students’ sentiments that the shelter-in-place had gone on for longer than necessary, given the fact that Jackson-Reed had already been dismissed.

“They were trying to make people less stressed by not announcing what was happening in the beginning, but that actually made people more stressed,” junior Rachel Schneider said. She said that she did not feel safe in her last period class, as she learned about the threat from classmates, and not from the school, and wasn’t receiving any cohesive information. 

High school leadership and members of the security team were not available for comment before the publication of this article.

Raghav Belle Trichur, Sadie Foer and Catherine Dooley contributed to this article.